Friday, May 30, 2014

Privileged lunacy.

Kenyans are still waiting for the gods of fortune to smile upon them and keep the "illicit" or "adulterated" liquor from killing dozens every time it is consumed with Kenyans' traditional fatalistic wild abandon. Then there is that sophisticated lot - at least they see themselves as sophisticated - who are praying for the "enforcement of the rules and regulations" relating to liquor and sale of liquor to bring to an end the regular reports of dozens having been "affected" by the poison being peddled by greedy men. Both sets of Kenyans continue to bury their heads in the sand.
 
We might pretend otherwise, but we are all united in our contempt for the law. Most of us only demonstrate our contempt for what we call petty laws, inconveniences that if ignored do not lead to harm. The sophisticates call them victimless crimes. This contempt for the rules pervades every social stratum in Kenya. It seems not to matter whether one is a Big Man or a Little Fish, there is a rule we will break with impunity because, after all, "no one gets hurt."
 
The irony is that for the most part our laws, rules, regulations, guidelines and the such are well-written and well-thought out. If one reads the Traffic Act one might disagree with the draconian nature of the penalties imposed on offenders, but one will not quibble with the basic structure, architecture or objectives of the Act. The same is true of many laws. It is in the exceptions, the loopholes, though, that we set the cat among the pigeons.
 
Kenya is a nation that promotes its inequity, and iniquity, by the granting of privileges and none are more egregious than privileges created by statutes. Some are reasonable. For example, in that selfsame Traffic Act, priority is given to emergency vehicles and the presidential motorcade. And because of the public safety fears of passengers, public service vehicles are not permitted to "tint" their windows while private vehicles are.
 
Kenya's elite, however, are consummate acquirers of privileges. Many are unfair. Why should the Cabinet Secretary for Transport and Infrastructure not face the same indignity of sitting in stand-still traffic when he has failed to do anything to make the traffic run smoothly? Why should the Inspector-General of Police be accorded an armed bodyguard when thousands of Kenyans live with the risk of being shot, robbed or blown up? Why should "a senior officer in the Office of the Attorney-General" own ten houses allocated under the Civil Servants' Housing Scheme when tens of thousands of civil servants barely make enough to qualify for the same scheme, many of them in the Office of the Attorney-General?
 
So every time Kenyans get a chance to cock-a-snook at the Government and its "petty rules," they take it, even if that chance might lead to acute poisoning, blindness or death. And what petty rule could be simpler than on the manufacture of liquor without a permit? Chang'aa and its variants and traditional substitutes have always been the equivalent of the finger; they are manufactured in unlicensed places, no excise is paid on them and their consumption is open to everyone regardless of their rank in society. The sophisticates might down their Heinekens and Black Labels for which hefty duties have been levied; but they do so in a world occupied by less than ten per cent of the Kenyan population. Until that world is as welcoming as the world of the chang'aa den, stories of dozens being "affected" by "illicit" liquor will not end.

Consequences of stubbornness.

There are lessons to be learnt from challenges other countries undergo, whether they overcome them or not. In 1956, Israel joined Britain and France in a harebrained scheme to take control of the Suez and the Sinai. It almost ended in tears and though Israel came out ahead in that war, it drew important lessons that were effectively and ruthlessly applied in 1967. When Egypt, Syria and Jordan attacked Israel in 1967, she was ready. Her defence forces were the most effective in the Middle East; highly trained and highly motivated. The three Arab invaders did not stand a chance. It is a lesson that Israel forgot by the time the Yom Kippur War came around and though it prevailed again, it was at a great price. It took away lessons from that war too and today only the foolhardy would even countenance a war with Israel.
 
On 7 August 1998, the embassies of the United States in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam were bombed by al Qaeda operatives. The bombers had a network in place in Kenya to carry out the bombings. They were originally from Somalia but nearly all of them had come into contact with Usama Bin Laden in the Sudan while others had fought in Chechnya and Afghanistan. Typical of the Kenyan security establishment, it reacted by pushing through the National Security and Intelligence Service Act. In Kenya, the law is always the solution of first instance. This isn't necessarily the wrong approach; frequently one will require a statutory framework that is coherent to get the job done. In Kenya, though, the obsession is always to solve all problems using statutory instrument without looking at the bigger picture.
 
It is indisputable that the security scenario in Kenya today is dire. al Qaeda's surrogate in the Horn of Africa, al Shabaab, has proven to be quite resilient. It has carried out bold attacks in Kenya and Uganda since 2010. But the Westgate siege in August 2013 demonstrates that the Kenya security establishment has not learnt the proper lessons from the 1998 US embassy bombings. If it had, the traditional round-up-the-usual-suspects approach to national security would be a thing of the past, the plaything of politicians out to prove their tough-on-crime credentials.
 
Assessing what is in the public domain regarding national security is a mug's game; there is more information hidden than is available to make a fair assessment. But we can tease out some worrying trends from what we see and what we hear. In Operation: Usalama Watch, launched with zeal in April/May 2014, one can almost be certain that the National Police Service, its Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the National Intelligence Service do not have a comprehensive list of al Shabaab operatives operating in Kenya. They seem to have a comprehensive list of every Muslim cleric who's ever said a bad thing about the government, though.
 
Secondly, it is almost certain that perhaps only the NIS has trained manpower in the collection and analysis of threats to the national security. The National Police and CID do not seem to be able to anticipate security-related problems. It is why the measures the police have taken in the name of national security have proven woefully inadequate. This is further complicated by the low level of legitimacy the police enjoy among the people which seems to be exacerbated by unrelenting accusations of corruption. (Indeed, during Usalama Watch, hundreds of Kenyans have accused the police if using the operation as a license to extort millions from "suspects.")
 
What Kenya should have done after 1998 was not just enact an intelligence-gathering enabling legislation, it should have focused in building the infrastructure for tackling terrorists and terror cells. Documents of identity should have been upgraded in 1999/2000. Border crossing points should have been streamlined and automated to reduce the penchant for border agents to solicit or accept bribes. The administration of the police forces should have been made more efficient; the old-timers with old school mindsets should have been eased out. Professionalisation of policing should have began at in 2000/2001. Finally, Kenya should have done more to make the restive communities at the Coast, the NEP and the bandit-prone zones feel more included in the fate of the nation.
 
The lessons not learned are getting Kenyans killed in large numbers. Westgate seems to have failed to spark a revolution in intelligence-gathering or analysis. It did not galvanize the police forces into swifter reforms or professionalization. Graft seems the most common way for terrorists to obtain documents of identity in Kenya. The marginalization and exclusion  of the peoples of the Coast, the former NEP and the bandit-prone zones seems to have intensified. The consequences of this deliberate tack will be ever greater bloodshed against the innocent.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Parents and wayward wards.

We frown with mighty displeasure when we see parents smacking their kids for behaving badly in public. Therefore, many parents with an ounce of grey matter have adapted; they have become adept at manipulating their children, whether it is with rewards or privileges rarely granted. The relationship between Kenya and what we refer to as the West is akin to the relationship of a parent with a wayward child.
 
This parent-wayward child relationship was demonstrated when the British government advised its citizens to avoid certain parts of Kenya, parts that are major mainstay of the tourism industry, and British tour companies took the unprecedented step of evacuating by air some of their clients from Kenya. Britain's diplomats in Kenya went out of their way to assure the Government of Uhuru Kenyatta that the reason why the British government had issued the travel "advisory" was simply to keep Britons safe; it was not with the sinister intention of crippling a key foreign exchange revenue earner of the Government of Kenya.
 
Certain stalwarts of the Jubilee cheering section have a less-than-astute appreciation of geo-politics. They, therefore, inevitably see an avenging hand in the British actions because Kenya has found a new sugar daddy in the People's Republic of China. Their simplistic analysis revolves around what is basically a substitution equation: if the Chinese win the tenders they are winning in Kenya, Kenya will use Chinese technology and hardware for the projects and give up British and Western technology and hardware. These Jubilant analysts are getting aggressively belligerent in their comments against the West and are seeing Western conspiracies in everything that is going wrong in Kenya today.
 
It is likely that these analysts are not too far off the mark. nations have manipulated each other since diplomacy was invented. In the global market, manipulation is a fact of life and only the astute survive. In global politics, the Theory of Natural Selection is perfectly adapted; the smart will survive and prosper; the not-so-smart remain poor and at the mercy of the richer and smarter.
 
Kenya has always been the plaything of the mzungu. Since some white man decided to find the source of the Nile River, Kenya's fate was never its own again. Now in the middle of a crisis, when millions of Kenyans are unsure that their next bus trip will not end up in the mortuary, it is the mzungu with the perfect knowledge of the security intelligence who uses it to remind us that the Chinese sugar daddy may have a fat wallet today, but it is the mzungu who still calls the shots when it comes to the key sectors of our economy. The evacuation of 300 wazungus back to their cold and dreary island reinforced this point. It was about as subtle as a sledgehammer wielded against a mosquito and just as devastating.

Kenyans are a threat to government fences.

It is time Parliament enacted a new law to keep Kenyans as far away from government fences as possible. In the olden days, before mobiles and mobile phone cameras, government fences were emblazoned with stern warnings about photographing government fences. Today, the prices of cameras have fallen; even the hoi polloi can surreptitiously take a snap of a government fence without fear of being caught in the act. Now that the people have discovered or will discover all the secrets government fences hold, Inspector-General Kimaiyo and Director-General Gichangi need all the statutory and legislative help they can get to keep Kenyans as far away from government fences as they can.
 
In recent months, Inspector-General Kimaiyo has found temporary extra-legal means to keep Kenyans from touching or in any way interfering with government fences. Keen observers of the security measures that Inspector-General Kimaiyo has mounted across the Capital City will have seen the liberally judicious employment of metres and metres of white half-inch nylon rope to keep Kenyans from touching or in any way interfering with government fences surrounding Vigilance House, County Hall, Sheria House, Harambee House, Times Tower, the Treasury and the Central Bank.
 
Indeed, it is not just the fences of the national government that are being secured against the obviously dangerous hands of the people, even the Government of Nairobi City County has taken a bold extra-legal step to protect its fences from the people. A quick stroll along City Hall Way will confirm the dangerous times in which government fences find themselves. Sadly, Governor Kidero seems to be running out of cash for his protect-the-fence programme; his government's fences are barricaded behind flimsy black-and-yellow plastic ribbons. Perhaps if he has a quiet chat with Inspector-General Kimaiyo, the latter will donate some of what must be an unlimited supply of white half-inch plastic rope.
 
While the dangerously indolent and ungrateful refuse to appreciate the threat under which the government fence exists today, this blogger is determined to avoid such a blasé attitude. This blogger is keenly aware of the animosity Kenyans bear for the government fence, an animosity that seems to have multiplied tenfold in the past year or so. All the hundreds of millions of shillings that the government has spent to build its fences are being threatened by an ungrateful nation; the protection of the fences must receive top priority.
 
As further proof of the dangers of the people in relation to government fences, look at their determination not to buy cars; if they bought private cars, they would never ever come anywhere near the government fences. But with malice in their hearts, they are determined to keep walking just for the opportunity to do harm to what are national treasures, our glorious government fences. This blogger imagines that because of the determination of the people, by hook or by crook, to damage government fences, Inspector-General Kimaiyo, Director-General Gichangi and all those worthies charged with defending and protecting government fences, must wake up sweating bullets in the middle of the night worrying what Kenyans are up to.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Could they be powerless?

You know they have run right out of ideas when the police ban constitutionally-protected activities like political rallies "until further notice." Whether the Presidency was involved in the decision to ensure that Raila Odinga's homecoming did not turn into a Hero's Welcome we will never know. Whether it is the kneejerk reaction of a Majority Party bereft of fresh ideas or seeking hither and thither for a fresh burst of momentum will remain a mystery only time will reveal. There is the teeny tiny possibility that the Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General of National Intelligence may have intelligence  that al Shabaab and like-minded elements will use the presence of jubilant crowds surrounding one of Kenya's true heroes to commit even greater atrocities than they have over the past 14 years.
 
Mr Odinga's absence from Kenya has been felt, and not just in the listing CORD ship. Without Raila Odinga, Jubilee was at risk of cannibalizing itself in the search of enemies. But in a classic case of a love/hate relationship, mandarins acting like party apparatchiks cannot seem to decide whether to show the Doyen of the Opposition love or not. The ban on all political rallies and processions seems to point to the dominance of the hate side of the equation this go around.
 
The administrative machinery of the Government of Kenya seems stuck in the 1970s, at the height of the paranoia of the Kiambu Mafia surrounding the late Father of the Nation, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. Francis Kimemia was quite probably the last true senior functionary to run his department in the manner and style that both Jomo Kenytta and Daniel Moi preferred: as a weapon to be wielded against the "enemies of the State."
 
The Inspector-General, the Interior Principal Secretary and the Cabinet Secretary are cut for them the same cloth, though they do not seem to have the same aura of commanding authority that Francis Kimemia demonstrated when he was the acting Head of the Civil Service during the transition period between the Kibaki government and the Jubilee one. They seem to go out of their way to demonstrate that they have power; they do not seem to have the capacity to exercise that power with decisiveness or precision. If it was a comedy, theirs would be the Kenyan version of the classic Keystone Kops from the silent movie era.
 
The last true strongman was surely Moi. He wielded the instruments of power like a conductor conducting an 88 piece orchestra. He knew when to offer the carrot and when to use the stick; he knew which political levers to pull in order for the people to do his bidding. The people always did his bidding until the revival of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, the rise of Oginga Odinga, the turncoating of Kenneth Matiba, Charles Rubia and Mwai Kibaki, the pressure from the World Bank and the IMF, and the desire for an exit strategy that allowed him to retain his massive wealthy and stay out of the klink. Jubilee, despite being ardent students of the KANU Way, are neophytes at this game; fourteen months into their reign and they are still treated with barely-concealed contempt. The sheer lunacy of the No Political Rallies Rule by Mr Kimaiyo betrays the fear that Jubilee may not actually have power to wield.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Without Agwambo, it's just not worth it.

Kenyans really should sympathise with Raila Odinga, the most indefatigable Oppositionist in Kenya's history. Without his presence and his signature style, both Uhuru Kenyatta's Jubilee and CORD are adrift with no direction. If you take a look at the three months that Agwambo has been in Boston you will notice that CORD has all but fallen apart and the TNA wing of the Jubilee bandwagon has lost its mind looking for Agwambo-related conspiracies to peddle to its semi-literate base.

The CORD state of affairs would be funny if it wasn't so tragic. With increasing franticness, its members have manufactured crises and conspiracies; they have shrilly taken on Jubilee on the occasion of its one year in office; they have listed every broken Jubilee promise; they have counted every act of terrorism as an act of failure by Uhuru Kenyatta's government. They have done all this and more without offering an alternative, a plan or even fresh ideas other than "regime change."

Among its stalwarts are Peter Anyang' Nyong'o, James Orengo, Moses Wetangula, Amos Wako and Kalonzo Musyoka. Between these five there is at least a century of public service and politics experience. The scheming, conniving and deal-making that goes into a politician's life is writ large in the lives of these men. Yet, for all their experience, they come across as befuddled old men without a clue on how to operate a shiny new plasticky toy, like an iPad or iPhone. You watch their theatrics at political rallies and you hang your head in despair at the spectacular lack of spark in their pronouncements or ideas. They might as well be effigies; the people wouldn't notice.

Things are much, much worse on the Jubilee side. With the prolonged absence of Agwambo, they have looked for enemies from among their ranks. Those looking to witch-hunt Ann Waiguru did not have their favourite punching bag around; in Agwambo's absence they had to find other enemies to fight in order for their names to be in the papers and on the airwaves. Look at the senate; without Raila Odinga to offer Jubilee a made-for-politics target, they have turned heir attentions to Governors without much success of even effectiveness. The National assembly has run out of debatable ideas that it has resorted to debating whether or not Raila Odinga should give lectures at American universities.

We must, therefore, sympathise with Agwambo. He is the glue that holds Kenya's politics, and politicians, together. Without him, even the National Executive knows not what to do hence the jet-setting and foreign junkets. It is Agwambo who sets the tone of the political debate, who defines it and whose contribution makes it all worthwhile. Jubilee fears him, but they wouldn't be here without him. CORD want him to retire, but not one of its members will be the first to suggest that Agwambo is over the hill. Love him or hate him, Raila Amolo Odinga is Kenyan politics.

The Impeachment Albatross

To remove a Cabinet Secretary from office, the procedure  in Article 152 applies. We are all more than familiar with the procedure for removing a Governor from office. (We are also more than familiar with what it takes for a Governor to cling on past all logic to his office; the phrase "come hell or high water" is strangely apposite.) That, at least, is the technical aspect of the removal of a Cabinet Secretary or a Governor.
 
The Kenyan politician, however, doesn't care two figs for the technical aspects of an impeachment. Indeed, if he could skip the whole "due process" bit of an impeachment, all he would need would be "like-minded colleagues", a funeral speech or two, and, Hey Presto!, that Cabinet Secretary or Governor would be packing their bags and heading back to whatever private sinecure they had crawled out of in the first place.
 
This blogger knows precious little about why the Members of the County Assembly of Embu are determined to bury a hatchet in their Governor's back. What is apparent from the media sensationalisation of his repeated impeachments is that the Embu MCAs really, really want Martin Nyagah Wambora gone, and that he is just as equally stubbornly determined to hang on to his office chair. In Embu, it seems, only an Act of God will get Governor Wambora to relinquish his seat or, quite unlikely though, his tormentors to focus their animus on someone else. Close to home, this blogger remains blissfully ignorant of why suddenly the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning has drawn the bilious attention of Mithika Linturi. (Ignorance is bliss when you know nothing of the secrets of scary people.)
 
Mr Linturi, at the best of times, is not the most articulate Murume and in explaining himself with the Impeach Waiguru agenda, it takes several reads of the transcript to get the gist of things. Sadly, his explanations and justifications are not worth a bucket of warm piss. But if Ms Waiguru has the likes of Kithure Kindiki fighting in her corner, she should be very worried; there are few famous lawyers as bad at their jobs as the Senate Majority Leader. Mr Kindiki has distinguished himself in an institution where distinction is reserved for the most intemperate and reckless with his intemperance and recklessness.
 
We keep bandying about impeachment as if it is a reasonable weapon in political or administrative combat. The MCAs plotting the impeachments of their "unco-operative" governors ignore the very real costs of the impeachments; the millions of shillings in public funds that will be spent prosecuting the impeachments are funds that could be spent on building more early childhood education centres or hiring early childhood development teachers. Then there is the political cost.
 
We unanimously agreed that regardless of the flaws in the draft Constitution during the Referendum Campaign, we all wanted devolution to work. We reviled the Big Brother nannying of the central government and the pathological corruption of local government. County government was the magic bullet to better local services and improved quality of life. But the dysfunction inherited from the poisoned atmosphere in Nairobi threatens to turn county governments into evil twins of the government in Nairobi. If that happens, the shame we feel now will be visited on our children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.

Friday, May 23, 2014

We are not an army of charcoal-sellers.


It takes a lot out of a man to admit that they are not brave; that in fact, they are cowards who would run from the face of danger and never look back. This blogger will not admit to being a coward, save to say that unless fat stacks of green backs are involved, he will not involve himself in the quarrels of others. Kenya, like the People's Republic of Chine, did everything in its power to avoid involving itself in the quarrels of others. But beginning in 1994/95, it became a major contributor to the UN's blue-helmeted "peace-keeping" forces. Then it started mediating disputes; the results have been mixed thus far.
 
It's greatest achievements, in the fond memories of Gen Lazaro Sumbeiywo, Kalonzo Musyoka and Bethuel Kiplagat, must surely be the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the government of the Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement and the creation of the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia. The Sudan peace deal held even in the face of provocations between the two nascent governments; the peace, in South Sudan however, has unraveled and in its wake has left behind thousands of bodies and smouldering SUVs (bought in the excitement of the peace deal.)
 
Kenyans are, however, paying for the failure of the Somalia TFG in standing up on its own without propping up from the AMISOM. The Somalia government has failed to keep the Shabaab contained; the Shabaab has become Kenya's greatest security nightmare since the days of the militia murders in 2004 to 2007. We involved ourselves in the quarrels amongst the peoples of Somalia because their quarrel was leading to bloodshed and mayhem on our side of the border; if they had kept their murdering on their side of the border we would have continued doing what we had always done: receive refugees and take money from the UNHCR to keep them reasonably safe and fed.
 
So we sent Special Forces, the Navy and the Army to Somalia. we conquered territory that had been in the hands of the Shabaab. Our soldiers were brave and professional. Some of their comrades were felled by Shabaab bullets, but we consoled ourselves that it was a price worth paying if it meant the Shabaab problem went away. The problem did not go away. The bombings, kidnappings and shootings did not stop. The Shabaab is as much a nightmare today as it was four years ago. Regardless of what our original mission in Somalia was, it is no longer a viable strategy to use the broad sword of an army to control the metasticising cancer of a terrorist organization. It is time for a new strategy and having Kenya Defence Personnel engaged in the business of exporting charcoal to the Arab Gulf out of the Port of Kismayu is not what we'd call a viable strategy.
 
We can carry on as before and leave KDF in the diminishing returns status of the AMISOM mission. Or we can change tack and adapt just as the Shabaab has. It is time to target the Shabaab in a broad swathe. It should no longer just about denying them ground to operate in Somalia or in the badlands of North Eastern Kenya; it is time to target their communications and intelligence lines, as well as their financing. It is time to smash the network it has built for itself in order to act with impunity in Kenya. And the lunacy of Usalama Watch is definitely not a strategy likely to lead to success. Unless we are willing to behave exactly in the fashion that Israel behaves with its Palestinian Problem, we have no choice but to find a more intelligent way out of the box we find ourselves in.

President for Life? Not a bad deal.

It took them three months, but they all came round to the realization that the only way to rescue the tourism industry in Kenya, especially at the Coast, is for the Government of Kenya to become the number one tourist agent in the country. It is all about the simplest of maths; the number of Kenyans of working age who have jobs that leave them with large dollops of disposable income is small, and growing smaller with the fierce competition from the Chinese in hitherto peculiarly Kenyan occupations.
 
President Kenyatta the Younger has withdrawn the Rotich Circular banning the GoK from checking into privately-owned hotels. (It doesn't escape him that it was a Circular that everyone with a spine ignored when it was issued.) He has offered tax incentives. He has taken a firm stand in paying out tax rebates owed to players in the hotel industry. He has ordered the entire firmament of the GoK to promote domestic tourism. (But surely, he must know that few Kenyans will take advantage of the opportunities to tour areas beyond their own ridges.)
 
President Kenyatta the Younger ascended the throne of Kenyan politics at what must have been a propitious time. Kenya was conducting general elections under a brand-spanking new constitution. The Minority Party was, and remains, an irritant to be treated with ill-disguised contempt. (Ndung'u Githinji doesn't hide his particular loathing for the Deputy Minority Leader.) The Unofficial Leader of the Opposition had been sidelined and so too had been his sidekick. (His recent runaway mouth seems to have pointed to deeper psychological problems for the former Number Two.) Mwai Kibaki left him with a reasonably well-stocked Treasury. Infrastructure construction was moving forward at an impressive clip; the Chinese Sugar Daddy was spending and spending big on Kenya. And because there wasn't going to be a run-off, he had six billion reasons to make plans for the future.
 
Events have not been propitious for the President and this has not been felt more than in the hotel and tourism sector. Since that old mzungu lady was kidnapped from Lamu to Somalia and her husband murdered, the industry has never recovered. Like a metronome that picks up speed, kidnappings morphed into lone grenade attacks which morphed to sophisticated sieges and car-bombings. No one was spared in the campaign of terror; even religious establishments became targets of gunmen and bombers. The intelligence "chatter" pointed to an escalation. The mzungu governments panicked (or acted with cynical calculation) issued "travel advisories" against visiting Kenya or parts of Kenya and tour operators sent planes to evacuate their clients back home.
 
The initial Presidential reaction was ill-thought and petulant; it was laced with anger and intemperate in what it communicated. sending out the hapless tourism Cabinet Secretary with Tembea Kenya did not seem to make things better. Now the National Executive is proposing handing over hundreds of millions of shillings in the form of undelivered rebates to Kenya's hotel and tour sector in order "to improve liquidity in the industry" and grant them tax breaks that others might not and, quite probably, shall not get enjoy. (Whatever the President does, he will meet cynics like this blogger and outright hostility from other quarters.)
 
This blogger believes that the presidency is really a bed of roses; it smells really nice, but it has some really sharp thorns which, no matter how much power you wield, you will never be able to get away from. It would help if Kenyatta the Younger enjoyed the same power and legitimacy like Kenyatta the Elder and Daniel Moi; both were kings in all but name. Their word was law. They ruled without fear. And one of them actually achieved an African king's dream: he was a President for Life!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ropes are way more effective than solid stone walls.

If this blogger weren't such a cold-hearted lawyer with a slight penchant for sadism, he would weep buckets for Joseph Ole Lenku. This blogger has on several occasions in the past month been compelled to make his way to Sheria House, that bastion of astute legal interpretations which, as many of the residents of our fair city know, is along Harambee Avenue and, rather coincidentally, smack-dub next to Harambee House. Harambee House, for those visiting this fair land for the first time, happens to be the President's some-time office. More recently it has become the permanent resident of one Joseph Ole Lenku; his sleepless nights are because of the bombings, shootings, kidnappings and sundry mysterious deaths of political movers and shakers of various hues and dispositions.

I would weep for the Cabinet Secretary because, like it or not, the men and women (this blogger supposes it is really just men) who advise Mr Ole Lenku on wheres and wherefores of the security and intelligence sector are men and women who have spent the past fifty years treating the people as akin to something that would be broadcast using a flying toilet. Mr Ole Lenku's advisors' psychological profile would seem to consist of 90% paranoia and 10% extreme paranoia. For proof, all one needs to do is take a leisurely stroll down Harambee Avenue (and the feeder lane along Haile Selassie Avenue, especially opposite Times Tower and the Central Bank). The paranoia and intelligence of Kenya's security establishment will be plain to see for those with eyes to look.

That bit of the Capital's business district is almost exclusively occupied by the Government of Kenya. There's Bima House, The Treasury, Herufi House, Vigilance House, the Central Bank, Jogoo House, the Foreign Affairs ministry, Harambee House, the newly named Harambee House Annex (oldies will remember it as Shell-BP House), Sheria House and County Hall. Mr Ole Lenku's security people must have told the Cabinet Secretary that they could not keep an eye on every person who walked by Harambee House, Harambee House Annex, Vigilance House, Times Tower or the Central Bank, not even with the CCTV cameras that they purchased at such extortionate prices. They must have argued that terrorists and people of ill-motives were hiding quite effectively among the civilian population and security and intelligence officers could not identify them. Therefore, they had come up with a fool-proof building security system that would keep the occupants of these sensitive buildings safe from harm. In addition to the armed guards, armed patrols, CCTV cameras, six-feet high fences and restricted access systems, the security of these buildings would be guaranteed by surrounding them with...ropes, nice, long, nylon ropes.

Do not scoff. In a city where people are led by the nose, a simple rope is the most intimidating barrier one will encounter. (It must be mentioned, though, that outside of Vigilance House there is an armed policeman with an assault rifle who patrols the fifteen or so steps inside the rope barrier to ensure that no adventurous Nairobian gets any funny ideas about jumping the line.) Along Harambee Avenue on that side of Haile Selassie Avenue, hundreds, thousands of Nairobians will risk being run down by GK-emblazoned, siren-blaring Murungarus and Cabinet Secretarial Passats flying hither and thither just so they can walk on the correct side of the rope line. ladies and gentlemen, all the pedestrian pavements along Harambee Avenue and Haile Selassie Avenue and outside sensitive buildings have become, with the tying of a rope, security zones. And because terrorists will be deterred by ropes and bullets will find it difficult to penetrate the rope-enclosed zone and because bombs have no effect beyond the rope line, Mr Ole Lenku's security establishment can pat themselves on the back. They have secured the buildings. The occupants of these buildings can work with a calm mind.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Pity is not what you want, Rais.

Being Commander-in-Chief is truly shit. Nobody trusts you. Everyone thinks your Cabinet is made of complete halfwits. Your friends are hanging around so that they can pick your pocket. Come to think of it, that's why your enemies are hanging around too. When you make any decision, it is second-guessed by assholes who didn't even bother to stand for public office even once in their poverty-stricken lives. Then there are the haters hating on your wife or children and who peddle the most vile stories about you and your family. When things go wrong which, let's face it happens every day, the idiots who call themselves the press hound your ass with asinine questions that even three-year olds know to be full of shit.

Uhuru Kenyatta is the President of the Republic of Kenya, Head of State and Government, and Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces. And he looks miserable in the job. Sure, every now and then he gets to do fun stuff like attending music and drama festivals or visiting with students of top performing schools. (It is sad that these are the only things that seem to bring a smile to the President's face.) But for the most part, he is dour and cranky, especially when it comes to the touchy question of whether or not his government is delivering. 

The past month has been spectacularly misery-inducing for the President. Kenyans keep getting bombed and murdered by unknown, faceless enemies and the Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General of National Intelligence seem incapable of stanching the flow of blood on our streets. Key departments keep letting him down; the State Law Office has handed him a hemlock-filled Anglo Leasing chalice from which he has been compelled to take a long, deep drought. Then there are the stats his Cabinet Secretaries keep bandying frantically about as they unconvincingly try to persuade us that "things will get better." A year and change into his reign and the President's government is reviled within and outside the ruling coalition and by a truly diverse cross-section of Kenyans. It makes you want to weep for the man.

What is beyond doubt is that despite his occasional crabbiness and persnickety reaction to bad news, Uhuru Kenyatta is still a delight to see when he is in full flow. If only he shed his nice-guy persona; it is time for half his Cabinet to start sending out their CVs. Some were the worst ever choices for the Ministries they were handed. Kaimenyi has fucked up the laptops-for-tots deal that his ass should be smarting from the bakoras he has suffered at the hands of the media and sundry other vested interests. No one believes Kandie when she promises that Kenya will always have the Big Five, especially when her promise comes after a wildlife mascot that has roamed free for forty-seven odd years gets butchered under the noses of the KWS. Who remembers the last time they saw or heard from Omamo at Defence, Mohammed at Industrialisation, Wario at Sports, Culture and the Arts, or Koskey at Agriculture without thinking that bright or not, these people are in the wrong institution at the wrong time and with the wrong skills set?

And the ones who are seen and heard are pretty adept at generating headlines that keep the President awake at night. Ole Lenku at the Interior and Ngilu at Lands are just the most obvious. But when you see and hear Kambi at Labour you wince in horror for the political accommodations President Kenyatta made in order to get his Cabinet approved. It is New Broom Time for the President; he needs to clean house. He not needs to send the political and administrative millstones around his neck packing, he has to cut down on the army of overpaid consultants who've sent his ship of state towards the political and administrative rocks. A year later and all he can show for it is pity is not the record Uhuru Kenyatta expected, is it Rais?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why would we want to be humiliated in the name of tourism?

Because of this blogger's cable company's dispute with several of Kenya's broadcasters, his access to Sunday Live is non-existent. We will not dwell on the soul-numbing pining for Julie Gichuru that this blogger is experiencing. Thankfully, Royal Media acts with alacrity to upload its interviews on its website. Watching the Cabinet Secretary for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism, one is struck by the remarkable naivete the Cabinet Secretary displays.

In her management of the tourism sector, she is either clueless or still living in fear of public speaking. She makes a number of startling statements that betray her dearth of understanding of the tourist-fuelled economy. Kenya has been hit badly over the past three months by terrorist attacks. Dozens of Kenyans have been murdered and maimed. Western governments have advised their nationals not to visit Kenya unless they have to. In recent days, the United Kingdom have began evacuating their nationals from Kenya's coastal hotels, the United Nations Office in Nairobi is implementing a security plan to keep its officers safe and the United States government is bringing in reinforcements of its famed Marines to patrol the territory around its embassy in the overly militarised Gigiri district. All that the Cabinet Secretary has to offer the tourism sector is "Tembea Kenya", a plan to get domestic tourists to spend money in Kenyan hotels and tourism-related destinations and activities.

Kenyans are not blind nor are they morons. It is important that the Cabinet Secretary realised this. Many are proud to be Kenyans and they are very sensitive to being treated with discourtesy or disrespect. many Kenyans will grin and bear it when they are treated like shit by officers of their own government; after all, he who fights the government tends to get the worse of it. But Kenyans will not pay good money to be treated with disrespect by hoteliers, park wardens, car hire companies, airlines or shop attendants. This, for the majority of domestic tourists, is the sum total of their tourism experience in Kenya.

If the Cabinet Secretary believes this to be hyperbole, she should travel incognito and on a budget. If a domestic airline has the temerity to push around people in wheel chairs and make their travel experience hell, she'll discover that it is much worse for the Kenyan who cannot afford an air ticket, but has to make do with the fleets of "coaches" that ply the Nairobi-Mombasa route. When that Kenyan eventually makes it to Mombasa, or if he spends a bit more, Malindi, and takes another bus or matatu to his lodgings of choice, he will be subjected to greater security scrutiny than the pensioner mzungu who made the same journey as he did. When he walks into the lobby of the lodgings, it will be five minutes before any member of staff judders into action in his direction. It is more likely that that member of staff will demand to know what the Kenyan wants, while his colleagues solicitously fetch the mzungu's bag and take him through the newly elaborate check-in procedures at Kenya's coastal lodgings. 

When the Kenyan is finally checked in, has had a shower and a rest and decides to do a bit of shopping, shop staff and curio vendors will treat his shillings with disdain, serving him shingo upande, reluctantly. Many Kenyans are willing to take up the Ministry's invitation and Tembea Kenya, but they will not do it if their tourism experience is going to be punctuated by a series of little humiliations at their expense. Samuel Kivuitu, the late chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya, in a different context, said it best in 2002: We may be a small people, but we will not be pushed around by anybody.

Finally, unless the Cabinet Secretary has been living in a bubble, she will no doubt have noticed that all the victims of the bombers and shooters have been Kenyans. Neither Britons, Australians, Frenchmen, Germans nor Americans have faced an al Shabaab bomber or gunman since Kenya became the target of that perfidious bunch. What makes the Cabinet Secretary think that Kenyans are going to place themselves in harms way so that they can keep Kenya's rude hotels in business now that their boon friends are abandoning Kenya for other destinations? We are not designed to take bullets for people who don't even like us. We are not going to spend money so that we can get shot at or bombed. No thank you very much.

Friday, May 16, 2014

We are in the same boat.

The people we sympathise with most because of the evacuation of British nationals from Mombasa are not the hotel operators or the tour company honchos, but the men and women (and, sometimes, children) who make a living from the presence of the pale faces. We definitely did not feel sorry for the British nationals forced to head back to the dark, dreary and forbidding island in the Atlantic prone to prolonged periods of raid and gloom. After all, they were foolhardy enough to perpetuate the myth that Kenya is a sunny place for shady people and there none shadier than the perfidious British.

When we examine the hotel industry in Kenya, there are few surprises. Those that bring in the dollars have the red carpet rolled for them, whether the establishment is in the middle of the Maasai Mara or snuggled somewhere along Accra Road. If you are pale-faced and waving around a wad of greenback, proprietors will bend over backwards to accommodate you. If you are not pale faced but you spend as the pale faces do, proprietors will reluctantly bend to your dollar-backed will. They will not do it with a song in their hearts, but they'll do it all the same. If you have the misfortune of being a member of the mythical Kenyan middle class recently come upon a windfall, proprietors will make every effort to separate you from your mashilingi; they'll pretend to respect you and to be happy with your custom but if a pale face turns up with his dollars, you will discover that not even the Range Rover Sport you drove to that establishment in warrants you any respect or gratitude.

Leading lights in the Kenya hotel industry will argue that this blogger is recalling old news. Native Kenyans (yes! there is a Kenyan proprietor who actually used the word "native") are always welcome in their establishment; they will not be discriminated against simply because they are black or relatively less well off in comparison to the wizened pensioners form Europe. They will highlight the publicity efforts directed at domestic tourists to encourage them to spend in Kenya rather than in Zanzibar or Kampala. They are all full of shit!

There are many exceptions that prove that particularly odious rule. The Porterhouse in Nairobi is an establishment that treats all its patrons with the same degree of disinterest; all it demands is that you settle your bills. But by and large, if the lottery of life blessed you a complexion that tends towards the chocolatey, you will experience the gamut of subtle disrespectful acts when you visit Kenya's hotels and such like. The departing British nationals will take their pounds sterling with them. Lay-offs will ensue. This blogger doesn't care if it finally dawns on the proprietors of the fine dining and lodging establishments in Kenya that the same degree of callous disrespect the have for us is the same degree of disrespect the wazungus have for them and it does not matter how rich they are, or how rich they think they are; so long as their skins tend to the chocolaty, they are just as fucked as we are.

The Fantasy of Civilisation

Someone, somewhere still lives in the fantasy world where Kenya is a member of the civilised world, where alcohol is a "beverage," not a drink, and people imbibe, not "drink." Someone is still holding out hope that "pubs" will be "respectable" places of leisure with clearly demarcated and notified smoking and non-smoking zones. Their fantasies run to visions of bar "staff" in clean uniforms, muted sounds, light banter, comfortable bar stools, privacy-enhancing booths, well-lit and watered "facilities" and clearly marked closing hour. In Kenya, fantasies are how we justify the twang in our accents, the syntactical gymnastics we engage in and the air of superiority when interacting with the yokels from Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

Is it not time that right-thinking Kenyans shattered those comfortable fantasies? A teeny-tiny elite in Kenya has the capacity to behave in a civilised manner. And this elite is not restricted to the pale-skinned wazungus hiding their family histories from the history books; there are many quisling families with roots in the colonial era that have surmounted their traitorous histories to become respectable and civilised. It is this elite that was "shattered" when terror visited the Westgate; it is this elite that appreciates the foundation histories of the Karen Country Club and the Muthaiga Golf Club; it is this  elite that spends hundreds of millions every year importing only the finest bone china, European motor cars and tutors for their sprogs; it is this elite that can differentiate between 10-year old and 12-year old single malt whiskey. This elite is an entirely different tribe of Kenya, the forty-third tribe.

We, the great unwashed, are not civilised and are most definitely uncivilisable. It is a harsh indictment for a group that would like to believe includes a middle class. (There is no middle class; we are all working stiffs. Some just make a decent fist of it than others.) We may pretend to be offended and turn up our noses and roll up our windows when we drive along Landhies Road, but we are very comfortable parking our ex-Dubai Mercedes-Benz in the middle of Haile Selassie Avenue and elbowing our way through the crowd at Wakulima Market just so we can get a decent bargain on the waru, sukuma wiki or nyanya. We are very comfortable on the benches in choma zones and "joints" with illuminatingly uninspiring names like Mwenda's or Njuguna's. And we have no qualms screwing over friends and family for a fast shilling.

It is why those who are praying for the day that Kenyans will leave en masse the "illicit" brews behind are waiting for hell to freeze over. This is the level of civilisation many of us will accept. We will not notice that the "quality of service" related to our unregulated tipples are marked by "unsanitary conditions". We really won't. What we really care for is that where we drink, when we drink and with whom we drink are completely in opposition to the written law; the law is a mzungu institution and we don't really acre whether it binds us or not. we will do what we will do because we know that the price for doing what we are not supposed to do is always settled on the streets...or with the help of wachawi and waganga. Mututho and his NACADA can destroy as many barrels of chang'aa as they want but so long as we consider him and his law and his precious NACADA to be illegitimate, many of our friends will continue to drink fire and "succumb to methanol poisoning."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Tinted car windows and contempt for the law.

When the Inspector-General ordered all cars with tinted windows to be impounded, citing the Traffic Act as his justification, and one of his lackeys walked back his order, clarifying that applied only to public service vehicles, it highlighted the striking contempt for the law that Kenyans have. The Traffic Act does outlaw tinted windows for PSVs; the Traffic Rules, 1953, at rule 30, outlaw tinted windows for all vehicles. However, there is the law and what people are prepared to comply with.

Motorists are some of the most notorious contemnors of the law in Kenya. The legendary traffic jams in Nairobi and Mombasa are a demonstration that all motorists are laws unto themselves; their desire to make their destinations in the shortest period of time possible, the rules of the road be damned, demonstrates that while the State might make all the laws it wants for the safety and convenience of all Kenyans, some of the laws' implementation will be sabotaged without the fear of sanction.

While the Inspector-General's order seems of a piece with the knee-jerk responses of government agencies to events, the existence of the non-tint rule refuses to accept the reality about law enforcement in Kenya. The Inspector-General himself reflected this collective contempt for petty rules when he indicated that he would not arrest the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of the Interior and deliver him before the court on charges of contempt because it would be an embarrassment. It is not the law that is a problem but its enforcement.

Kenya is becoming notorious for making rules that cannot be enforced. The reasoning behind the making of the rules may seem logical at first glance, but the reality of their enforcement is rarely considered. The non-tint rule, rather than being enforced, is likely, in Kenyans' minds, to be an avenue for police extortion. Many claim that the Alcoblow rule has turned motorists into ATMs, though the hundreds of motorists arraigned in court and fined would seem to belie this comfortable urban legend.

The safety of road users is important. Many road users are employers and employees. The man hours spent after a road traffic accident are a loss to the employer, employee and economy alike. Enhancing road safety will have demonstrable and verifiable benefits. But for road safety to be enhanced, the law must not be treated with contempt. If it is unlawful to have tinted windows on vehicles, then the rule must be enforced without fear or favour. Inspector-General Kimaiyo and the National Police Service must be prepared to haul in Cabinet Secretaries, their Principal Secretaries and the high and mighty just as they will surely haul in all the hoi polloi who cock a snook at the law. If the Inspector-General is prepared to ignore the potential embarrassment he will cause the National Executive in the execution of his order, he might be surprised at the goodwill his action will engender in the wider motoring public. If he is not prepared to do the right thing, he should be prepared for the contemptuous resistance his order will face.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The church is no longer a church.

Bishop David Oginde is an interesting man of the cloth. In an Op/Ed in the Sunday Standard (Let's re-register real Kenyans, and boost national security, 11/05/14), he makes a strong case for current efforts by the National Executive to deal with the problem of illegal aliens and terrorism. Dr Dr Oginde recalls the efforts of the church in 2003 to persuade the NARC government of the risks posed with the continued failure by the government to police its border, to deal with the corruption in the immigration department and to allowing black money to flood the financial system. Dr Oginde celebrates the prescience of the church; all that they had predicted has come to pass.

In the olden days, such as they were in Kenya during the colonial era and the forty-year KANU interregnum, the church played a critical role in Kenya. It was the principle non-state provider of basic education, primary healthcare and social security for orphans, the weak and the infirm. Especially during the colonial era, the church formed an uneasy partnership with the the colonial administration; there are a few survivors who still recollect with bitterness the church's whitewashing of the atrocities of the colonial administration during the Emergency.

The church in Kenya came of age during the political agitations of the late Eighties. Kenyans owe a debt of gratitude that will never be repaid to the men of the cloth like Henry Okullu, Alexander Kipsang Muge and Timothy Njoya who were prepared to risk their lives for the ideals of political freedom. President Moi tried and failed to co-opt the church.

But even during the darkest periods of the Eighties, Kenya still played host to significant populations of refugees from Uganda, Ethiopia, the Sudan and Somalia. The church was deeply involved in dealing with the challenges of the refugee populations hosted in Kenya. The church never considered them as security threats; instead, in the spirit of love, the church offered what assistance it could. This began to change when the church was finally co-opted into the agendas of political parties following the 2002 general election. What Moi had failed to do by fiat, Mwai Kibaki accomplished by stealth.

The church is now a political player and it has engaged itself less and less in the business of the church and more and more in the business of the state. It has become a competitor in the market place, competing with "foreigners" (which has long been a code-word for Muslims). It is in this context that we must examine Dr Oginde's call for the "re-registration of real Kenyans." It is why the church has not joined calls condemning the "xenophobic and tribalistic" targetting of ethnic Kenyan-Somalis on suspicion of being in the country illegally or being involved in terrorism. It is why the church is worried about the influx of "illegal" money used to purchase real estate that threatens to "make us landless in our own country." The church does not want "Muslims" to enjoy freedoms it has enjoyed since before Independence; and it wishes to keep everyone out of the areas it has enjoyed pre-eminence though it no longer does what churches normally should do.

Dr Oginde and "the church" have completely lost their humanity. "The church" has become a business. Its principle job, it seems, is to amass and amass in the midst of penury and want. It will engage in PR and CSR, but in actual fact, "the church" in Kenya takes more than it gives. It is the mirror image of the government it has always held to account. The only difference between the two is that the government doesn't hypocritically hide its true nature. When the scales fall from our eyes, it might be too late to hold Dr Oginde or the church to account for falling so far from the glory of God.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Please lie to us.

It is in Kenya that one will find that hitting ones head against the wall is par for the course. The Second Republic is spectacularly maddening. The devolution of power is proceeding in fits and starts. The Senate and the National Assembly have kept up a running sub rosa war that threatens to stymie meaningful legislative business. The National Executive is held hostage to various cartels in various sectors with varying appetites and networks. County Executives have proven to be just as venal and avaricious as the National Executive they were meant to differ from.

Kenya is Charlie Brown; every time it seems we are just about to kick the ball into the goal, the ball is yanked away. In 1990, the repeal of section 2A of the former constitution signaled the opening up of the political arena. Instead of pluralism of political and economic though, we ended up with an expensive National Assembly and its price has only gone up in the two decades since. In 2002, it seemed that with Uhuru Kenyatta's concession speech, KANU was finally dead; all we had to do was to bury it and all its perfidious baggage. Three - THREE! - short months later, the President was fighting a severe stroke and Anglo Leasing was well on its way to making our lives about as miserable as ever.

Disappointment is a staple of life in Kenya. It is the one constant that every Kenyan will identify with. It is a national characteristic. It is pervasive and dispiriting. It is why when Kenyans witness our president on foreign soil making promises of one sort or the other, we roll our eyes and snigger to ourselves. What do foreign presidents and prime ministers know of Kenyan promises of action? The only time they matter is when presidential hides are on the line. Pray, do you truly believe that the Government of Kenya will make a meaningful contribution to the recovery of the girls abducted by Boko Haram? When one of the "eyes and ears of the government" was abducted to Somalia by al Shabaab, the Government of Kenya promised to leave no stone unturned. It was two years before al Shabaab set the Kenyan administrator free; the abductors had gotten tired of waiting for the ransom to be paid.

Kenyans no longer want promises. Kenyans no longer want assurances. All they want is peaceful silence. If you are going to say anything, lie to us. Tell us that the land of milk and honey is in the making. Tell us that the smooth highways will no longer be washed in the blood of road traffic accident victims. Tell us that when our children walk home from school, they will not be the objects of desire of foreign pederasts holding residential papers "purchased" from the Immigration Department. Tell us if we work hard, and save enough, we will all retire to ten acres "back home" in relative comfort. Tell us that it will be all right in the end. Please, lie to us.

Bite the bullet: Let him go.

There is a cadre of civil servants moulded in the colonial vision of a benevolent State ruling its subjects with stringent rules and harsh penalties. They refuse to admit that post-promulgation, Kenya's constitutional order does not and should not rely on the image of the Big Man commanding his people to do one thing or the other. The key to understanding the new constitutional order is to understand that while the former constitutional regime was predicated on the word of the "leader" being final, in the new order, "legitimacy" is what guarantees civil order.

The first quarter of 2014 has been brutal. Not a month has passed without multiple reports of grenade attacks or bombings, the murder of police and civilian alike has become commonplace. In the past week alone, more than 90 Kenyans have been killed though, surprisingly, the majority were killed after drinking "illicit" alcohol. When bombs were going off, the Cabinet Secretary for the Interior and Co-ordination of National Government did nothing more than to promise ever harsher application of the laws of Kenya while calling for the co-operation of the people to identify the fifth columnists among us. But when "illicit" alcohol killed dozens, he was swift in firing public officers.

Perhaps the President and Deputy President appreciate that their administration succeeds if it is considered legitimate; their Cabinet is yet to do so. Cabinet Secretary Lenku is a millstone around the neck of the Jubilee administration. Kenyans were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt when he was appointed to the Interior ministry. There were misgivings that his stint in the hospitality industry ill-equipped him to oversee the most serious attempt at reforming internal security while at the same time implementing policies designed to keep Kenyans safe from the ballooning terror problem. With the siege of the Westgate, Mr Ole Lenku's credibility was shot. it has never recovered. Uhuru Kenyatta's administration risks losing legitimacy because of the perceived ineptitude of Mr Ole Lenku.

It has been a year. The police reforms initiated in the dying months of the Kibaki government have all but stalled. The reputation of the National Police remains sullied by the corruption allegations that never seem to die down. Public confidence in the government to keep them safe from rogue matatu crews, al Shabaab terrorists or gun-toting robbers has hit the rocks. The people can either blame the Cabinet Secretary or the Commander-in-Chief. For now, Kenyans' unbridled hostility is directed at the men at the top of the internal security firmament: the Cabinet Secretary, his Principal Secretary, the Inspector-General, the Director of Criminal Investigations and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Service.

Since Westgate, there have only been minor rumbles about the removal of the Cabinet Secretary and the Inspector-General from their offices. If the Cabinet secretary keeps making the same mistakes that led to the deaths of Kenyans over and over again, the calls for his resignation or dismissal will only grow louder. Confidence in his abilities has evaporated; the goodwill he enjoyed is gone. The Commander-in-Chief must surely know that it is time to find someone with the ruthlessness and intelligence to get the interior docket on the proper war footing. If the C-in-C is not careful, Mr Ole Lenku will be the reason his government loses legitimacy and credibility.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Let go of baba's hand.

There is no contradiction in the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief being away drumming up business for the republic while remote-detonated improvised explosive devises are going off in buses or grenades are being hurled at the commuting public. None at all. Some US president, perhaps Calvin Coolidge, once declared that the business of America is business or words to that effect. If Kenya is to overcome decades of inequity and iniquity because of the skewed public investment of successive governments, it is with private money, especially private foreign money, that this will be done.

What Kenyans have failed to do for fifty years, they are being called to do in less than two. Kenyans are called upon to hold their government, and their President, Governor, Member of Parliament, Member of the County Assembly, Chief Justice, Inspector-General of Police and Director of Public Prosecutions to account for their acts of commission and omission. Since Independence, the Government of Kenya, in the imperial guises of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, decreed how and when Kenyans would engage with the Government, how the Republic would be governed, and who would do the governing.

Whatever civil society that existed in 1963, Kenyans only remember the assassinations and the grand looting of the national treasury. There are few who can attest to the fairness of the land administration system. There are few who will admit to fairness in the allocation of public funds for teaching, healthcare, roads, piped water or police resources over the past five decades. Uhuru Kenyatta came to office after a decade of trial-and-error in the attempts of his predecessor to reverse forty years of economic sclerosis. He has much to accomplish and this will not be done by staying at home every time a bomb goes of or a grenade is hurled at the innocent; at some point, Cabinet Secretary Ole Lenku and Inspector-General Kimaiyo must let go of baba's hand and get on with the job of keeping Kenyans safe.

Some of the things Uhuru Kenyatta must accomplish will not come cheap; the revenue his government collects on an annual basis is tied up keeping many civil servants in truffles. Therefore, he will need the money that foreigners are willing to part with. In exchange for that money, we wait with bated breath to find out what our President has offered for sale. Is it the mountains of coal and limestone in Kitui? Is it the seas of oil and water in the bowels of the earth in Turkana? We pray that our President breaks with Kenya's pernicious secretive past and reveals what his government has one to make our lives safe and prosperous.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Our broken hearts.

Falling in love is hell. Once in, there are few ways out that do not lead to anger, disappointment or pain. Over fifty per cent of Kenya's voters fell in love with the Jubilee belle in 2012 and on the 4th March 2013, elected Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto as the President and Deputy President of Kenya. The first months in the romance between Jubilee and its voters were a heady rush of launches, speeches, manifestos and promises. The presidential debates sealed the deal; it is only the mean-spirited among us who will deny that Uhuru Kenyatta seduced us with his erudition and calm delivery, while Raila Odinga looked stodgy, old and old-fashioned. Then came the presidential election petition, and Uhuru Kenyatta confirmed to those who swooned at his every utterance that indeed, Kenyatta the Younger was the man on the move.

A year later, the honeymoon is well and truly over. In the twelve months of the Jubilee regime, the cost of living has gone up, draconian national taxes have been imposed with pernicious economic effects on the working poor, innocent Kenyans have been shot, stabbed, and bombed and others' lives snuffed out on Mwai Kibaki's shiny highways. Mwai Kibaki had John Githongo and his Anglo-Leasing exposes; Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are yet to find their own whistle-blower, but laptops-for-tots and SGR are not what you'd describe as Jubilee's version of Mwai Kibaki's shiny highways.

In victory, Jubilee has carried on campaigning. If promises are not being kept (laptops, SGR, et al), they are still being made ("We will keep you safe; we will arrest the killers; we will stop the carnage on our roads, et cetera.". Raila Odinga has taken a sabbatical but you would not know it for all the attention semi-literate Jubilee MPs have focused on his travels overseas. Even for the cautious fence-sitters among us, it has finally dawned that the belle has turned out to be the plain sister with an axe to grind. Our rose-tinted glasses have been smashed to bits. Our hearts, if not exactly broken, have experienced an excruciating attack of romantic angina.

This shouldn't come as a surprise for the unromantic; Kenya's history with its politicians is one filled with heartache and heartbreak. Betrayal and disappointment are nothing new to us. Mwai Kibaki and his Cabinet proved it in 2003. Uhuru Kenyatta and his administration will break our hearts. They will romance us again in 2016/17 and we will fall for it. We always have and we always will. It is what it is. Falling in love, dear reader, is hell.

Monday, May 05, 2014

"Usalama wa serikali" is the wrong approach.

We must say it over and over until Vigilance House, Jogoo House, Harambee House and State House get it through their mulish heads: in order for the people to feel safe, the Government, not the State, should concentrate more on public safety and not obsessively over national security.

Those of us who are comfortably ensconced in the swaddling clothes of the middle class don't really care; after all, the walking unwashed masses subsidise our lives to a very great degree so if they are getting blown up by al Shabaab types, we will cluck in despair and retreat to the safety of our armed private security, private transport and bullet-resistant glass. The atrocity of the Westgate was ham-fistedly investigated by Parliament, the National Police Service and every publicity-whore with a camera; to date no answers are forthcoming. Therefore, it can almost be guaranteed that what the National Police and its re-named provincial askaris (apparently they are now established under the National Government Co-ordination Act, No. 1 of 2013), will do will be described by the media hordes as "knee-jerk reactions" when they eventually "swing into action" regarding the bombings in Mombasa and Nairobi.

President Kenyatta talks of national security and the security of the State. Cabinet Secretary Lenku talks about national security. Inspector-General Kimaiyo talks about national security. Even Governor Kidero and Governor Joho talk about "security". National security and the security of the State revolve around policing, intelligence gathering and criminal investigation designed to keep an elite in power, a majority cowed, and "enemies of the people" in jail.

Under a national/state security blanket, all manner of crimes are perpetrated against the people; the people are definitely not safe to travel alone at night, to visit the ATM at "odd hours", to board a taxi without fear of abduction, to get murdered withing spitting distance of patrolling policemen or to get blown up by "terrorists" who seem to enjoy the same broad freedom of movement as the agents of the State seem to enjoy. The middle classes cheer themselves hoarse when, in the name of the security of the State and the "territorial integrity of Kenya." the Commander-in-Chief deploys the army to Somalia to "crush al Shabaab where it stands" though it doesn't seem to have been standing in Somalia for long now.

It ha proven impossible to turn the post-colonial security state into an environment for the safety of all the people. Therefore, in Kibera women face the indignity of "flying" toilets or being raped on the way to "communal" toilets. Successive governments have not bothered to provide the basics for the women of Kibera - piped water, four stone walls, electricity, public drainage or indoor plumbing. It is why the sexual assault figures for women aged 15 to 25 years in Kibera are enough to soften even the hardest bureaucratic heart. But because they have been made deliberately invisible by the national/State security obsession of our elite, the women and girls of Kibera are on their own. Their safety is not a priority. The safety of the "state" is all that must concern us.

They all fall, eventually

The member of the National Assembly for Mumias East is a spectacularly unpleasant character. But he is not unique. A former member of the Na...